March 1, 2006

 

Dear Local Public School Teachers and Administrators;

 

Undue state and federal pressure on districts and schools to improve WASL scores is being transferred to the students who are the actual participants in WASL testing “where the pencil hits the paper.” In many instances, this pressure is displayed by schools in seemingly positive “reward” policies. Extrinsic rewards for WASL participation and performance have many negative consequences, both for students receiving them and for students who are left out of the celebrations, awards ceremonies, and/or listings in district newspapers and school newsletters.

 

Rewards such as movies and ice cream parties for WASL participants teach students that learning in itself is not the reward. Parent Empowerment Network (PEN) encourages parents to utilize their state-recognized right to opt their children out of WASL. Many schools have denied these opted out students the “privilege” of partaking in school and classroom post-WASL activities. This practice punishes the student for the choice of the parent and must stop.

 

Schools and districts that publish the names of students or otherwise publicly recognizing students who meet the WASL standard expose all students who have not passed the test. PEN, therefore, asserts that these actions may have serious legal consequences to school districts. By divulging the names of student who have passed the WASL, the school is, by default, publicly broadcasting the identity of students who have failed to meet WASL standard. PEN believes this is a school district violation of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, which ensures confidentiality of student records. Additionally, this practice has a devastating effect on students whose parents have consciously chosen not to tell their children that they have failed sections of the WASL.

 

PEN disagrees with the practice of awarding and/or punishing students based on WASL participation or performance. In many cases, students have no control over their passage or failure on this flawed state instrument. Rewarding and punishing students based on a test that equates to a measure of educational capacity rather than effort simply furthers the societal stratification that exists outside the schoolhouse door. In our democratic society, it is the job of our public schools to encourage and recognize the individual accomplishments of every student, not elevate an elite few based on an arbitrary state test.

 

PEN will seek legal opinion from the State Attorney General on the issue of confidentiality.

 

Juanita Doyon, Director

Parent Empowerment Network